The reputation game: how to control the way we appear in the eyes of others


From Harvey Weinstein to Taylor Swift, celebrities have become their own PR agents – and we are following their lead.

In Reputation, translated into English by Stephen Holmes and Noga Arikha, the Italian philosopher Gloria Origgi writes that we all have “two egos, two selves”. There is the physical and mental sensation of being you. Then there is the version of you that exists in the social world – a hazy, shifting, warped image of the real thing.

This is your reputation. It is you, because it derives from your actions, and also not you, because it is composed of other people’s opinions. It is a portrait of you that you didn’t commission and don’t own. Origgi is interested in the power that this second self exerts over the first. A person’s reputation can push him towards certain decisions instead of others. It can make him feel pride or shame. It can open doors or slam them shut.

“We think we know someone, but the truth is that we only know the version of them that they have chosen to show us,” writes Taylor Swift in the essay that accompanies her new album, Reputation. In reality, we know the version that other people have shown us. As Swift knows only too well, a person’s image is never wholly under her control. Our reputations are always filtered through the sentiments, prejudices and interests of others, which in turn influences how we see ourselves. In 1902, the American sociologist Charles Cooley coined the term “looking-glass self” to describe how we regard ourselves through the eyes of others. The looking glass is a distorting mirror.

Today, everyone’s second self is encoded in contrails of data: pictures, ratings, clicks, tweets, searches and purchases. Corporations and governments rake over this information and fix us in it: we are subjected to the scrutiny applied to celebrities but without the fame or the free stuff. In one possible future, everyone will be ranked like hotels on TripAdvisor. In one possible present, in fact: the Chinese government is implementing a scheme that will give each of its 1.4 billion citizens a score for trustworthiness, with the stated aim of building a culture of “sincerity”.

In the West, even without the intervention of the state, we have created a system in which everyone can be held accountable to their public image. As Swift writes, hers is the first generation with the responsibility of “[curating] what strangers think of us”.

Since nobody can opt out of having a reputation, we have to learn how to manage it. In other words, we need to become our own PR agents. The Reputation Game is written by two people from the PR business, David Waller and Rupert Younger. They introduce a useful distinction between two types of reputation: capability and character. The first refers to competence in a specific task, such as cooking a meal, providing mortgages, or making aircraft engines. The second refers to moral or social qualities. Someone can have a great reputation for competence, …read more

Source:: New Statesman

      

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